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Features / December 1, 1996

Herman Levy: The Legacy

On display on the first floor of the McMaster Museum of Art is a sculpture by contemporary British artist Tony Cragg. Among other things, it is composed of crates, boxes, a broom, a standing bookshelf—humble objects that have been stacked together, then adorned with hundreds of metal screw hooks. The effect is a shimmering aura, a visual hum that charges the space and snags our capricious attention. I like this sculpture. I have stopped to look at it several times now, standing in the opposite corner, examining it from a distance.

The Cragg sculpture is entitled Taking and Giving and it is part of The Levy Legacy exhibition, which celebrates the life and generosity of Herman Herzog Levy, O.B.E., a Hamilton philanthropist, businessman and art collector who bequeathed $15.25 million to McMaster University, one of the largest gifts of its kind to a cultural institution in Canada. He also gave a twin gift to the Royal Ontario Museum. Both bequests came with specific instructions. In the ROM’s case the $15.25 million was to be spent for purchases of Chinese sculpture and ceramics within five years. For McMaster University, the guidelines were clear as well. Spend the money, within five years, on non–North American art only.

So begins our Winter 1996 cover story. To keep reading, view a PDF of the entire article.